CBM Calls for More Protection for Aid Workers in Crisis Regions
"My desire to help is greater than my fear."
On this World Humanitarian Day, CBM Christian Blind Mission remembers all the women and men who help people in need, often under the most difficult conditions - even in forgotten crisis regions. One of these aid workers is Aida from Niger. Aida works under difficult conditions in the Tillabéri region of Niger, one of the most dangerous areas in the world. Insecurity and terror are part of everyday life here.
"People like Aida risk their lives every day to help others," emphasises Roland Schlott, Team Leader for Humanitarian Aid at CBM: "She works in a crisis region beyond the headlines. It is all the more important that we do not forget these aid workers either," says Schlott. "We must ensure that they get the protection they are entitled to under international law, no matter where they are in the world."
The 31-year-old nurse is supporting a CBM-funded project in the Tillabéri region. The border area is considered a stronghold of armed fundamentalist groups.
A life in constant danger
"For me as a woman, this means that I am exposing myself to danger. I know that I can be kidnapped, raped or murdered at any time," Aida reports.
As a humanitarian aid worker, she is particularly targeted by terrorist groups. As soon as Aida senses danger, she takes off her protective waistcoat, which bears the name of her aid organisation, and disguises herself. But she knows how important her work is. Her country Niger has one of the highest birth rates in the world. On average, each woman gives birth to almost seven children. But health care is catastrophic. And more and more hospitals are being closed for fear of terror. With devastating consequences: Only about 30 per cent of all women give birth with the help of a midwife.
The lack of midwife help often leads to disabilities
Many of the women who give birth without support from a midwife die or suffer lifelong from the consequences of the lack of obstetric care. They suffer from obstetric fistula, for example.
According to WHO, an obstetric fistula is an abnormal opening between a woman's genital tract and her urinary tract or rectum. If the mother's pelvis is too narrow or the baby is too big or presenting in an abnormal position, labour can last several days and often leads to the death of the baby and/or the mother. If the mother survives, she may develop a fistula that leads to incontinence.
The exact number of affected women in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia is not known, although the United Nations estimates it to be as high as two million young women living with untreated obstetric fistula. The women are shunned by their communities, as the condition which can lead to bad odours, is considered by some as dirty.
"Many women are abandoned by their husbands and families. They live a miserable life in poverty. Often they have only one meal a day," says Aida.
She goes to the remotest regions to help these women. She makes sure that they are operated on in the hospital in the capital Niamey and can live a life in dignity again.
Aida's beneficiaries also include many children. Many of them suffer from clubfoot, which leads to severe walking disabilities if left untreated. The mother of three is often asked why she regularly goes on her risky missions.
"Who will help these women and children if not me?" Aida asks. She knows that each of her missions brings hope. And that is what motivates her: "My desire to help is greater than my fear".